Like most people who saw it, I hadn’t the slightest idea how to respond to the trailer for Tree Of Life. Grandiose and larger than life, yet firmly domesticated, Terrence Malick’s sixth directorial effort honestly looked like a mess. Casting its net over multiple generations and employing language about ways of nature and ways of grace, I was firmly convinced Tree Of Life may have bit off more than it could chew. Turns out my assumptions were probably wrong.

Tree Of Life has just taken home the Palme d’Or during the closing ceremonies at the Cannes Film Festival. The surprise decision was announced in French by this year’s head judge Robert De Niro, climaxing a night of surprises that included a Best Actress win for Kirsten Dunst in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia.

In addition to Malick’s Tree Of Life and Dunst’s work in Melancholia, director Nicolas Winding Refn was also honored for helming Drive, an upcoming Ryan Gosling-led thriller. French actor Jean Dujardin won best male lead for Artist, and Once Upon A Time In Anatolia and The Kid With A Bike tied for the Grand Prix.

So, what does this mean? Well, regardless of whether or not it won, Malick’s Tree Of Life was likely to be seen based on Brad Pitt and Sean Penn’s bylines. This will only increase the hype. In addition, Drive should get a nice bump in the number of theaters it debuts in from its director’s win, and the studio behind Kirsten Dunst’s Melancholia might seriously push her for Oscar consideration.

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